FAQs for Students and Academic Advisors

FAQs for Students and Academic Advisors FAQs for Students and Academic Advisors


The Core Curriculum at SMC has the following requirements:

Habits of Mind with the goal of increasing proficiency related to critical thinking, shared inquiry, research practices, oral and written communication. Requirements include:

-Collegiate Seminar (one each year)

-January Term (one each year)

-Composition (English 4,5)

-Writing In The Discipline (WID)

Pathways to Knowledge with the goal of providing training in diverse pathways to knowledge via a cross-disciplinary approach to learning. Requirements include:

-Artistic Understanding (2 classes in analysis and one in creative practice)

-Mathematical and Scientific Understanding (1 class in each area)

-Social, Historical, and Cultural Understanding (2 classes)

-Theological Understanding (2 classes- the first is TRS 97)

Engaging the World with the goal of exploring justice, civic responsibility, and social, economic and cultural differences, by examining and reflecting on what it means to be a citizen in local and global communities.  Requirements include 1 class/experience in each area:

-American Diversity: examining the social, cultural, economic, political diversity of the United States.

-The Common Good: exploring what the common good is and how it might be pursued.

-Community Engagement: applying intellectual experiences to the community beyond the academy.

-Global Perspective: experiencing social, economic, religious structures from different global cultures.

Foreign Language: Students must demonstrate intermediate level proficiency in a foreign language.

This should be an ongoing conversation with your academic advisor. In addition, you can make an appointment with the Advising Office to discuss your progress (tao@stmarys-ca.edu). For specific questions about the Core Curriculum, contact Steve Miller, Chair of the Core Curriculum, via email at scmiller@stmarys-ca.edu or by phone 925-631-4970.

The Program Evaluation in GaelXpress has a running list of what requirements have been met and which still need to be met.

Students are able to satisfy the core requirements in a number of different ways- through coursework within and outside of their academic major, throughout the entire academic year including January Term and summer, and through the use of transfer courses (which can include online courses).

Courses within the major. Courses in the major can and do satisfy areas of the Core. Many departments have planned their curricular offerings to allow students to satisfy specific Core requirements through the major. Check specific department offerings each semester to determine which specific courses have Core designations.

Summer Courses. Summer courses count as normal courses (with the exception of the January Term in June course, which counts as a January Term course); therefore departmentally overseen courses taught in the summer carry their designations with them.

Online courses. The Core Curriculum Committee is not concerned about the delivery method of courses; in particular, it is agnostic with respect to the appropriateness of online courses. Appropriateness of online courses is determined by the  UEPC, the CCC chair, and the individual departments.

January Term courses.  While January Term courses cannot be used to satisfy Habits of Mind requirements or Pathways to Knowledge requirements (with the lone exception being Creative Practice), some are designated as courses that satisfy Engaging the World the requirement.

Off-campus/Transfer Courses.  Off-campus courses that a department counts as SMC courses will receive the same treatment as the SMC courses, at least for the Habits of Mind and Pathways to Knowledge goals. For example, should the College have determined that DVC English 35 is equivalent to SMC English 19, then a transfer student bringing in DVC Eng 35 would see "English 19 TE" under their Artistic Understanding- Artistic Analysis part of the degree audit, because our English 19 has been designated for AU-AA . This rule also covers AP and IB courses, Off-campus courses that count as SMC courses with an Engaging the World designation do NOT automatically receive the EtW designation. Students may seek that designation through a Special Action Petition.

For courses meant to fulfill a learning goal, by “complete a course” we mean “gains a passing grade.” A grade of “D” suffices, unless that course serves as a prerequisite for another course. For example, students must earn a C- or better in ENGL 4 to be eligible for ENGL 5, and earn a C- or better to move on to a WiD course, but a D will suffice in an upper division Core course if it is not a prerequisite for anything else. Moreover, a P does not suffice for a Core course with the lone exception being “4 Jan Term” requirement, in which P/F is still an option.

Core requirements cannot be waived (except in special circumstances); students need to complete all of the Core requirements either at SMC or by transfer credit.

Students can petition to have Core requirements satisfied through AP scores, transfer and study abroad courses, Independent Study, and other means through Special Action Petitions (SAPs). All SAPs will be received by the Registrar’s Office and then forwarded to the Chair of the Core, who (in consultation with Core Curriculum Committee members, Department Chairs, and/or Campus Administrators) makes the final decision on these petitions.

FAQs for Habits of Mind (Seminar, Composition, WiD, and January Term)

Since Seminar and January Term are unique, and can only be done at SMC, students are expected to complete one course for each year up to and including their senior year. (Transfers entering as sophomores will have one Seminar and one January Term requirement waived, etc..)

Yes, there are one or two “January Term” courses taught each summer term in June. These classes carry regular summer tuition.

No, with very few exceptions, January Term must be completed at SMC. Students studying abroad in an SMC program may take a fifth class while abroad to satisfy the January Term requirement if the program starts in January. Please contact the January Term office directly if there are extenuating circumstances you believe will prevent you from being able to satisfy the requirement at SMC.

Currently, Seminar 104 is taught in the summer, to facilitate graduating on time for students who needed to take an extra class. If students are behind on other Seminars, it is usually possible to catch up by taking 2 seminars in one year during the fall and spring semesters.

Collegiate Seminar is not taught at many other institutions. Most Colleges and Universities fill this kind of Habits of Mind learning outcome with a survey course, which is not transferable as Collegiate Seminar. All great books discussion-based courses would have to be examined in a petition for transfer. Please contact the Collegiate Seminar Office with specific questions about transfer courses.

The Habits of Mind learning goals are developmental, and so the classes that teach the HoM outcomes should be taken sequentially. For example, Seminar 1 uses and builds upon the writing skills taught in English 4, i.e., English 4 is a prerequisite for Seminar 1 with one exception (students who pass English 3 may enroll in English 4 and Seminar 1 concurrently).

English 5 is a prerequisite requirement for most WID courses, although some departments may list English 5 as a co-requisite requirement. Please check with each individual department for clarification.

Transfer students may waive Eng 4 if they have taken the equivalent at their previous institution or if the Composition Director determines that they place out of Eng 4.

For split majors, the student, in conjunction with faculty from both “splits,” should decide which department to take the WID course in, and might decide to take both.For individualized majors it’s possible that no WID designated course may be appropriate or accessible for a particular program of study. In this case, the CCC should allow for a student to submit a Special Action Petition to have an alternative course substitute as their WID.

FAQs for Pathways to Knowledge (PtK) Requirements

Students who score high enough on an AP or similar exam (as determined by the Registrar’s Office) to merit lower division elective credit also receive academic credit in the PtK area. Those who took the AP exam but did not do well enough to get academic credit do NOT get credit in the PtK area.

No. In order to satisfy PtK Learning Outcomes, the primary focus of the course must be devoted to one particular PtK. Since a course cannot have more than one primary focus, it cannot satisfy two PtK areas. The lone exception to this is AU (a course can satisfy AA and CP simultaneously).

All SMC students are expected to meet all Pathways to Knowledge requirements.

Yes. Petitions will be reviewed by the Chair of the Core Curriculum on an individual basis.

To complete the Scientific Understanding requirement, students must complete a science-based lab that focuses on quantitative data analysis. If your original science course did not have a lab, you can take a separate science lab to complete the requirement.

Because the Christian Foundations course is a signifier of our Catholic nature, that course may not be transferred in. However, Theological Exploration courses can be taken at other institutions and transferred in with approval of the CCC Chair.

Off-Campus courses counted as equivalent to SMC courses with EtW designations will not 'automatically' satisfy Engaging the World goals. Students wishing to seek credit for EtW courses taken outside of SMC need to do so through a Special Action Petition.

Not necessarily. Whether a specific section of a course meets the EtW goals, is largely dependent of the instructor and the method of delivery. Not all sections of the course will meet the same learning goals and therefore different sections of the same course may have different EtW designations. Students are held to whatever designations the course section has received.

Yes. The CCC Chair will consider petitions that courses outside of the traditional SMC curriculum satisfy Engaging the World goals. Such petitions must include the course syllabus and final project (if any).

No. In some cases, the CE requirement has been satisfied through other means. In those RARE cases, the student has to demonstrate mastery of the CE Learning Outcomes through service learning and an extensive paper summarizing how the experience was connected to CE Learning Outcomes.